Epistemic basis/status: I've talked this over with Grace and others at GWWC, and people seem generally interested. I'm posting this to get feedback and gauge interest before potentially pushing it further.
I'd like to get your thoughts on a "How Much Does It Cost to Save a Life?" quiz and calculator. I've been discussing this with Giving What We Can; it's somewhat modeled off their how rich am I calculator, which drives a lot of traffic to their site.
This would mainly target non-EAs, but it would try to strike a good balance between sophistication and simplicity. It could start as a quiz to get people's attention. People would be asked to guess this cost. They could then be asked to reconsider it considering some follow-up questions. This might be a good opportunity for a chatbot to work its magic.
After this interaction, the 'correct answer' and 'how well did I do' would take you to an interactive page, presenting the basic calculation and reasoning. (Before or after presenting this) it could also allow users to adjust their moral and epistemic parameters and the scope of their inquiry. This might be something to unfold gradually, letting people specify first one thing, and then maybe more, if they like.
- Target: Rich or poor countries, which age groups, etc.
- Relative value of a child or adults life
- How much do you weight life-years for certain states
- Which evidence do you find more plausible
- Do you want to include or exclude certain types of benefits
- Discount rate
We would aim to go viral (or at least bacterial)!
I believe that people would be highly interested in this: it could be engaging and pique curiosity and competitiveness (a bit click-baity, maybe, but the payoff is not click bait)!
It could potentially make news headlines. It’s an “easy story” for media people, asks a question people can engage with, etc. … ’how much does it cost to save a life? find out after the break!) giving the public a chance to engage with the question: "How much does it cost to save a life?"
It could help challenge misconceptions about the cost of saving lives, contributing to a more reality-based, impact-focused, and evidence-driven donor community. If people do think it’s much cheaper than it is, as some studies suggest, it would probably be good to change this misconception. It may also be a stepping stone towards encouraging people to think more critically about measuring impact and considering EA-aligned evaluations.
--> Greater acceptance and understanding of EA, better epistemics in the general public, better donation and policy choices
While GiveWell does have a page with a lot of technical details, it doesn't quite capture the interactive and compelling aspects I'm envisioning for this tool.
Giving What We Can's response has been positive, but they understandably lack the capacity within their core team to take on such a project. They suggest it could make for an interesting volunteer project if a UX designer and an engineer were interested in participating.
Considering the enthusiasm and the potential for synergy with academic research (which could be supported by funds for Facebook academic ads), I'm contemplating the best approach to bring this idea to life. I tentatively propose the following steps:
- Put out a request for a volunteer to help develop a proof of concept or minimum viable product. Giving What We Can has some interested engineers, and I could help with guidance and encouragement.
2 Apply for direct funding for the project, possibly collaborating with groups focused on quantitative uncertainty and "build your own cost-effectiveness" initiatives, or perhaps with SoGive.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and any suggestions you may have for moving forward with this idea.
(And GPT4 tells me to write: "Together, we can create a tool that truly engages people and inspires them to think more deeply about the impact of their giving.")
We'd probably initially start with human lives ala Givewell. ↩︎